Jack’s Last Road Trip

I don’t think that anyone anticipated the upheaval that COVID-19 would end up causing.  I know I didn’t when we set out from home in early March.  I wasn’t worried since for me the whole point of going on vacation is staying away from people and with three dogs, especially an 80 lbs meathead, no one is going to be close enough to spew spittle all over me.

When I began packing the car up the night before we left, King and Jack were right there watching me and doing the happy feet toe tap.  Jack was even giving his excited growly bark.  Leo just stood back and watched as he is much more dignified with such things.

Naturally the Standard Road Trip Rules would apply. The Road Trip bottle for this trek would be Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon.

Day 1

The dogs turned their noses up at the food I poured out for them before I packed up the last few items.  At 5:08 am, I steered my car loaded full of gear out into the early dawn.  As we were going to be passing by my office, I brought the mutts in to meet some of my colleagues.  There were squeals of joy and butt wiggles everywhere.  And that was from the people.

Back out on the road, we crawled across the top of Toronto heading westbound with a few quick stops to stretch our legs and so the dogs could have a chance to eat and drink.  Of course they didn’t and we jumped back in the car and continued on.

We crossed the border into the United States at the Windsor-Buffalo crossing.  Yet again, I proved that I have a unique ability to pick the slowest lane to cross and completely embarrass my self when speaking to the border guard.  He asked the usual questions with nary a reaction to any answer until he asked where I was going and for what purpose.  “St. Louis.  For vacation”  He stopped and, visibly confused, he asked who goes to St. Louis for a vacation.  At that point I had to confess: I was going to St. Louis for something called a Gooey Louie cake.  Someone had told me that it was amazing and with me being a foodie, well I had to check it out.  The border guard just looked at me and said if I was going to St. Louis then I had to go to Pappy’s for barbeque.  He said he had never been but had heard about it.  I frantically typed it into my phone and soon we were on our way.

We were happily driving along through a light rain when I noticed signs for Letchworth State Park.  After close to six hours with only brief stops and a break in the rain, a good walk was definitely in order.  We found a spot to park at the top of a hill and took our time walking a loop around a large open field.  It was a bit of trick to watch Leo bound ahead of me and Jack slowly meander behind.  With his failing eyesight and propensity for wandering away and losing track of where we were, I felt like my head was on a swivel.  At least I always knew where King was since he stays on a long line.  I just have to make sure he doesn’t wrap himself around a tree or pull me off balance when he lunges at something.  By the time we got back to the car, the rain had started to fall harder and it was time to get back on the road.

As we passed through Bath, New York, I was starting to feel a bit peckish.  Luckily, we happened upon Betty-Kay Bakeshop and we all know that I can’t turn down a bakeshop.  As I stood staring at the selection of goodies safely contained in display cases I was overwhelmed.  I asked the woman working there what she would recommend.  I left with a bag holding a Fausnaught and an English Cut in one hand and a coffee in the other.  I couldn’t even pronounce it but the Fausnaught was delicious with a heavy dose of cinnamon sugar, most of which I ended up wearing.  The English Cut was a light piece of fried heaven.  The coffee was what you’d expect from a small bakery but it delivered the needed caffeine.

Yet again, my tendency to not research destinations bit me in the backside.  Not only were were heading to St. Louis, we were also looking for the town of Agloe, New York.  My boss had told me this crazy story about a “paper town”: in the days when maps were created by people actually making them and not just typing into Google, map makers would add “paper towns” as a kind of trademark. These were towns that didn’t really exist but if you were a map maker and you saw one of these towns on a rival companies map, then you knew that it had been copied from yours.  When Agloe popped up on a rival’s map, naturally there were allegations of plagiarism. In order to avoid any legal issues, someone went and put up a sign for it to legitimize its existence.  Next thing you know, a town popped up.  

So I typed Agloe into my phone and was driving along until the map sent me to a dead end.  There was no town.  So back onto my phone and oh great, no service.   Since it was a nice area in the Catskills, I just started driving in a random direction until I could get a signal.  A little bit of time on Google and I found out that the town is now called Roscoe.  Which was in the opposite direction (facepalm).  With a quick U-turn and a short drive, we were in Roscoe.

Not only did we find Roscoe, but we found Roscoe Brewing Co., complete with a sign for the Agloe General Store.  I popped inside and asked if I would be able to enjoy a beverage on the patio with my dogs.  I was told that the patio wasn’t open but dogs are welcome inside.  Woohooooooo.   I hustled back to the car, released my eager puppies, and brought them inside to meet their new fan club.  After everyone got in the obligatory dog love, we found a table as far away from everyone else and got settled.  I ordered a flight and a bacon sandwich for dinner.  

As I waited for dinner, I sipped at my beer and looked around.  I was happy to see that flags from the different branches of the military were hanging from almost every wall.  It is always wonderful to see that support.

It was all great, however the amber ended up in my car.

All thought of flags was pushed from my mind as I tucked into a sandwich with thick slices of bacon, smothered with bacon jam, caramelized onions, and cheese on thick grilled bread.  Holy cow!!!   Where has this been all my life?  I looked down at hungry eyes and didn’t feel bad when none of the bacon fell.  Besides, the bacon jam was a bit spicy and it might have upset little tummies.  Yeah that’s it.  

Feeling refreshed after a wonderful meal and some excellent beer, some of which somehow ended up in my trunk, we continued through Roscoe and found Prohibition Distillery.  A brewery and a distillery mere blocks from each other?!?!  Never mind Disneyland; this is the happiest place on earth.  

I jumped out of the car and asked the staff about the bestsellers since I have dogs in the car.  “Oh they can come in if they’re friendly” was the response.  Ok where on earth am I???  This is like a dream come true.  The dogs came in and soon introduced themselves to the staff members before I bellied up to the bar and was given a crash course in the various offerings.  I tipped my head back to sip at an excellent gin when I noticed patches from police and fire departments and a fighter pilot’s helmet.  I asked if the whole town was so supportive of first responders and military and I was told that the distillery was veteran-owned.  If I hadn’t been planning on leaving with products, you can be damned sure that made the decision for me.   I finally pulled my dogs away from their new friends with a bottle of bourbon cream and a bottle of vodka.

We headed to the Super 8 in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and the dogs were on the bed before I had everyone’s leashes off.  I was just able to wiggle under the blankets between them and soon we were all passed out.

Day 2

There’s nothing quite like being woken up by the feeling of hot air on your cheek.  When I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the sight of King standing over me as Jack began rolling against my ribs while Leo pawed at the blankets.  It’s a strange day when they’re all up before me.  Fine guys.  We’ll get going.

I had to almost drag them to some grass before loading them in the car and driving to Compton’s Pancake House where I ordered the Hawaiian pancakes with bacon and a coffee.  As I waited I noticed signs for nearby Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and that seemed to be as good as any to enjoy breakfast.

I stopped at one of the many picnic tables at the visitors centre and opened up my containers.  The Hawaiian pancakes were pancakes that came with a pineapple topping.  The food was alright, the topping tasted kind of like they had just warmed up a can of crushed pineapple, and it seemed a bit overpriced at $15.00 for a lacklustre meal. However the restaurant had a steady stream of customers during the short time I was there so maybe it’s just me.

Since we were in a park, naturally we stayed to explore a little.  With Jack’s arthritis and almost total blindness, walks were kept short and to easy trails.  Luckily, we didn’t need to venture far to find some beautiful scenery.  I also wasn’t in a rush to get back on the road; we had lots of time and not a lot of things planned so our pace was much more leisurely than it has been in the past.

We were back on the road and continued our general southward meandering.  At a recommendation, we made a point of stopping in the town of Boiling Springs.  More specifically, we stopped at Anile’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Boiling Springs for stromboli.  I studied the menu and questioned the staff about the sizes before finally ordering a large stromboli.  As if there was any doubt that I was going to order a large.   If you’ve never had a stromboli, it’s basically a rolled up pizza and this one came with filled ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, and sauce.  It’s me on a road trip: of course we’re eating pizza in some form.

Since we had a little bit of time, I brought the dogs out of the car and we went for a walk.  I learned that the town of Boiling Springs got it’s name from several artesian springs in the area; the most prominent one just happened to be near the restaurant. Just as I was about to take a photo of the spring, a woman came by with her two dogs.  Luckily I saw them before King did, so we were able to move away without too much drama.  Besides, my dinner was waiting for me.

I was able to book a room at the American Inn in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  On the way there, I saw signs for memorials for law enforcement, fire, and EMT.  I thought this would be a wonderful place to stop but thought the placement for it was a little odd as it was directly across the street from a jail.  I’m not quite sure who thought that was a good idea.

The room reeked of smoke but was otherwise clean.  The smell of stromboli soon overwhelmed even the toughest smoke stink and I was wonderfully stuffed by the time it was finished with only minimal guilt from the six eyes staring at me the entire time.

Once the dogs realized that the food, mine anyway, was all gone, their heads hit the bed and they were out.  Luckily our room had two beds so I was able to get comfy; that was until Jack realized that I was all alone and jumped up with me, followed by King.  Leo is snuggly on his terms so when he feels it is time to grace me with his presence, he will.

Day 3

The clocks sprung forward so I was even later getting on the road than normal.  With the car loaded and my darlings packed up, we drove to Faye’s where I ordered the country skillet.  I love me a good skillet and this one was outstanding.  King was kind enough to offer his assistance and they may have gotten little bites of bacon.  

Once breakfast was out of the way, we made the short drive to Gettysburg.  With all my trips through the States, this was my first time stopping here and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  We walked around town for a little bit and we took the time to read the markers and placards about some of the lesser known events here.  As interesting as the town is, I was unprepared for the battlefields and monuments when we drove beyond the buildings.

Suddenly the realization of what a battlefield was seemed to be thrust in front of my eyes.  This wasn’t a single place that you stopped and then moved on; this was an immense area.  At one point, we stood on a ridge and looked out over forests and gullies, reading placards about the different stages of the fighting that had occurred here.  That was when this stopped being some abstract moment in history and became a tangible event.  You could almost feel it.  Even the dogs were more subdued as we sat and absorbed whatever that feeling was.  I’ve tried to put words to how and what I felt but I just cannot.  Part of it was a hushed deference for the dead but there was a sense that the earth itself was holding onto the anguish of the past.  Even as a non-American, I think that this is a place well worth visiting.  Give yourself lots of time and wear comfortable clothing because while there is a driving route, it is best explored on foot.  

After several hours of exploring we continued south and just as it was getting to be time for a break, we came to Shenandoah River State Park.  The day had been getting quite warm for these wayward Canadians so the pups happily took advantage of the chance to go for a swim.  Leo naturally rolled as soon as he emerged from the water.  So kind of him to try and dry off before getting back in the car.  As we took our time wandering around, I got to finding a place to spend the night. 

Even though I had a trunk full of my camping gear, the weather was still a bit too cool for us so it was going to be another night in a hotel; this time the Red Roof Inn in Winchester, Virginia.  We had stayed in Winchester five years before during our epic first road trip when it was just me and two dogs going where the wind blew us (read about that trip here). We have put a lot of miles under our tires since then.  But enough of memory lane.

I checked into our room, which was clean and comfortable as Red Roof usually is, and took a few minutes to browse the local listings to find a place to eat.  Scroll, scroll, scroll, ohhhhhhhh Mexican.  That sounds good.  Luckily Taqueria Guadalajara was only a short drive down the road.  It occurred to me as I stood there, contemplating the food that I put more effort into studying menus than I do studying maps.  Interesting to see where my priorities are.  I left with the Mi Carna Azada and a chocolate tres leches cake and went back to the room.

The aromas wafting from my container instantly set my mouth to watering and it was almost a struggle to decide what to load onto my fork: steak, rice, or refried beans. Naturally the dogs were eager to offer assistance but yet again, I was able to ignore the forlorn eyes and polish off my dinner.  The cake was extremely moist and hit my sweet tooth without being overpowering.  It was a wonderful end to a good day of travel.

Day 4 

I was really enjoying not having to set an alarm to be on the road in order to cover huge distances.  There’s something to be said for a slow and relaxing start to the day. The dogs watched me from the comfort of the bed while I packed up the car and after much bribery and a few gentle pokes, they were up and we were on the road.  

We stopped at Hopscotch Coffee & Records for a wonderful cortado which I enjoyed while sitting on the sidewalk out front and an americano to go.  I had somewhere else in mind for breakfast so it was just a few hits of go juice to start the day.

I have to confess that I was tempted to re-visit Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive but since we were passing through and wouldn’t be back, I couldn’t justify the admission fee to the park.  We could however take a different route through the mountains.  And if that route happened to take us back to The Apple House, well I was certainly not going to argue one bit.

I dashed in to place my order for breakfast and was ecstatic to see that it was exactly how I remembered it from five years ago: a restaurant on one side and a gift shop on the other.  I placed an order for a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast, and an order of donuts of course, and went back to the car to pass the time, watching as the parking filled up with a group of motorcyclists passing through.  I listened as they discussed their route, eavesdropping for anything interesting before strolling back inside for my food.

There were picnic tables just off the parking lot and we sat in the shade while I tucked into the food.  The dogs enjoyed a few bites of bacon, and Leo rolled in the dirt underneath the table.  I sampled a few of the donuts and found them to be as good as I remembered before we headed back on the road and continued our way south.

We somehow ended up on Highway 340 and drove until we were able to connect with the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Since it was still early in the season, none of the facilities were open but it was also very lightly travelled so we had almost every stop to ourselves.  Our stops were short and leisurely and were just enough to stretch our legs without exhausting the old man.  When we stopped at a beautiful waterfall to explore a trail and get some photos, I had to fight to keep them from swimming into the middle of the pool.  Even in the cold water, they still wanted to swim.

We continued south until we arrived at the Days Inn in Bedford, Virginia.  As I was checking in, I asked the front desk staff for suggestions for dinner and the first thing they both said was Azul.  Done. Once I had checked the room over and took the dogs for a stretch, we piled back into the car and made the short drive back the way we came to Azul.  

The first thing I noticed was the large, and empty, patio outside and I couldn’t help asking if dogs would be allowed to sit outside with me.  I was greeted with excited squeals of “Oh my god we love dogs!  Can we say hi?”  Well who am I to stand between the dogs and their fan club?  I placed an order for the Bangkok Noodle Bowl and then returned to the car to bring the boys out.  We had barely chosen a table before the staff came out and it was a tangle of leashes and legs.  The staff went back inside and soon emerged with my bowl (and stopped for a few more cuddles).  It was tasty and perfect for a slightly cool day.

We returned to the hotel room and the pups took their spots on the bed as I wiggled in between them.  They were asleep before I was able to pull the covers up.

Warming the bed up for me.

Day 5

When I peaked out of the window, it was cool with a light rain falling.  I packed up the car, with no help from the dogs, then loaded everyone up to go in search of coffee.  There was supposed to be a good coffee shop not far from the hotel and I was excited by the reviews and so looking forward to that rich bitter liquid…and it was closed.  Thanks again internet.

Luckily, Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea was not too far away so we stopped there for breakfast.  I ordered bacon, eggs, and toast, oh and an americano and was happy to learn that the dogs could sit with me on the sidewalk patio since the rain had stopped.  They were happy as well as there seems to be more sharing when we’re sitting at a table than when we’re in the car.  Strange isn’t it?

Normally I don’t like thin-cut bacon but when you’re sharing it with little mouths it makes it easier to dole out tiny pieces.  The breakfast was good and it was quickly gone.  We sat for a few extra moments watching the people walk by while I sipped my coffee before we headed back out on the road.

Soon though, the call for more caffeine became too loud to ignore.  The rain had been falling steadily after we left Mill Mountain so we weren’t able to get out to stretch our legs.  No doubt that was contributing to my need for bean.  A quick internet search sent me to Zazzy’z.  

The cafe was in a house that had been divided: half was a coffee shop and the other half was a bakery.  Although the bakery wasn’t open luckily the cafe was.  I walked in and scanned the walls looking at swag and pictures and oh my gawd the guy working behind the counter was gorgeous with a voice to match.  I waited in line trying to think of a way to get him to just recite the menu to me.  It was probably a good thing that there wasn’t anywhere to sit with my brood or I may have just hung out sipping coffee all day long instead of buying the americano that I took to go.    

We drove along 58 Alternate West and it was some wonderful scenery to enjoy, even though the rain kept our stops brief.  We were now heading in a westerly direction towards the Red Roof Inn in Lexington, Kentucky.  I had a place that I wanted to visit nearby but we weren’t going to make it today.

I checked into the Red Roof Inn and I asked where a good spot to go for dinner.  She listed off a bunch of places but one of the first she had mentioned was the nearby Horseshoe’s Saloon (now known as Kennedy’s Rickhouse).  It was so close that I could have walked it if I wasn’t going to be bringing back food.  Not to mention there’s a Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and it just seemed like the right place to go.

I scanned the menu and asked the staff what the favourites are.  She mentioned the country fried chicken and the beef tips.  I couldn’t decide which to order; so I ordered both.  She did a double take and had to repeat it back to me.  I just smiled sweetly and nodded.  Most people can’t believe the amount of food that I can eat in one sitting so I was used to her reaction.  I had a few minutes to spare so I took the dogs to an open field near the restaurant and let them sniff and explore a bit.  Finally it was time to return and pick up the food.  I soon left the tavern with two heavy bags of food and we drove back to our room.

Oh the smell was intoxicating.  The beef tips were covered in gravy with a little piece of corn bread.  The country fried chicken drowned in gravy with a heap of mashed potatoes and another piece of corn bread.  I picked up my fork and didn’t put it down until everything was gone.  All of it.  The dogs got little pieces of the beef but for the most part, I crushed it all.  I felt so full but so happy after.  

It was all I could do to roll myself into bed and get comfy.  The dogs gave me some dirty looks but I think they forgave me since I was soon surrounded by them.

Day 6

Today was the day: we were going to Buffalo Trace Distillery!  I had developed quite the taste for Blanton’s bourbon but my timing was horrible because as soon as I started drinking it, it became hard to find.  As in impossible.  So I had figured what better way to track some down then to go to the source.  I wanted to get there first thing so it was one of the few times that I actually set the alarm for the short drive over. 

When I went inside, I was asked if I was going to be joining the free tour.  I couldn’t since I have dogs in the car.  “Oh dogs are allowed everywhere except the bottling building.”  My head shot up and I literally danced from foot to foot.  “I’ll be right back!”  I hustled back to the car and soon returned with the dogs in tow.  As soon as they stepped inside, the dogs were mobbed by staff and customers alike.  They were in heaven with all the attention.  After everyone had gotten their love on, we moved to the spot where we were going to meet our tour group.  It must be hard for the dogs since they can’t go anywhere without being the centre of attention but they handle the pressure so well (that was sarcasm with a big eye roll).

If you’re around Buffalo Trace Distillery, the tour is awesome and the best part is that it ends at the bar with lots of samples which is perfect.  Oh about the Blanton’s: the demand has outweighed the supply.  There was none to be found at the distillery.  Damn. I blame John Wick.  I did leave with a nice glass and a bottle of bourbon cream.

As much as I enjoyed the bourbon breakfast, I needed something with a bit more substance and went to nearby Poppy’s Bakery.  I had thought that I might be able to get a sandwich but it wasn’t that kind of bakery.  All I saw was baked goods and I left with a box of donuts.  I’m not saying I was disappointed; in fact bourbon and donuts are a pretty good breakfast if you ask me.

I was working my way through an apple fritter as I planned our route.  A city caught my eye.  It was in the general direction that we were going with a slight detour.  Oh yeah.  This was happening.  Almost four hours later, we were standing on a train platform in the city of Clarkesville.  That’s right: we waited at the station for the last train to Clarkesville.  And if you know the song, it’s going through your head right now.  It would have been nice to wander around the park next door but the rain was falling and the dogs were pulling to the car. It was actually kind of hard to find so it’s L & N Train Station at Commerce Street and Tenth Street.

We were on our way out of the city when I decided to stop at Whitt’s Barbecue as we drove past.  A sandwich and brisket plate with corn bread, mac n cheese, and beans were soon splayed out on the trunk of my car, all consumed under the watchful eyes of my travelling companions. I will note that I violated the Road Trip Rules on this one: I didn’t realize that there were several locations all over the place. My bad.

We stopped for the night at the Carthage Inn in Carthage, Missouri.  Our room was comfortable and passed the dog test with flying colours.  By the time I was ready for bed, they were fast asleep.

Day 7

We were going to be meeting a friend so no early wake up for us.  We lounged around in bed until it was finally time to get up.  The weather was much better than the day before and I let the dogs walk around the field behind the motel.  As we walked back to the car, I noticed a shipping container cafe next door.  It hadn’t been there on our previous visit so naturally I had to investigate.  

Tin Cup Bistro may be in a small space but the food that came out of it was outstanding!  The americano was robust and the sandwich ticked off all the boxes: the sweet toasted cinnamon roll with eggs and bacon.  Amazing.

I can’t remember what it’s like to eat without those judgey eyes.

We had a few minutes to spare so we wandered around downtown Carthage.  When we came to Big Dog Boutique, it was only natural that we go inside.  I mean, the treat stash was getting a bit low and the last thing you want to do is run out.  King made a beeline for a stuffed dog that I think he thought had been fashioned in his likeness.  Seriously he would not leave this thing alone.  I would have bought it for him too but I knew it would have been destroyed in 30 seconds flat so after much cajoling and pleading, I was eventually able to drag King away for some treats at the front counter before we went to meet our friend.

After a leisurely cortado from Mother Road Coffee, we were back on the road and we did not stop until we got to Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis.  I went in and placed an order for the last half rack of ribs with sweet potato fries, baked beans, and bread, oh and a quarter pound of brisket.  As I was paying I asked how long it was going to be because I have dogs in the car.  “Oh they can come inside if you want.”  I’m sorry.  Say what now?!?!  I can sit inside with my dogs and eat barbecue?  I’ll be right back.  I hustled out to the car and we practically skipped our way inside.  We were seated next to the large windows that look out on the pits on the front sidewalk.  Soon a mound of food was placed before me.  The ribs were some of the finest I have ever had and I have had a lot of ribs.  The brisket was also good but the ribs stole the meal.  The dogs were kind enough to help me with the brisket and sweet potato fries but I didn’t want to upset delicate tummies with the highly sauced ribs.  Yeah…that’s it.

We practically rolled out of there which was when I noticed Center Ice Brewery a few doors down.  Not needing any beer but not being one to turn away from a brewery, we wandered over to check it out.  Oddly, while dogs are allowed in a restaurant, they were not allowed in the brewery.  OK then.  I grabbed a six-pack of Locker Room Supply Violent Gentlemen (mainly because it reminded me of a friend of mine) and we wandered back to the car.

I was full.  I was so full.  So when we got to the Motel 6, it was all I could do to drag myself into the shower before crawling into bed, cursing my belly but so happy as I had puppies snuggle up against me.  

Day 8

Finally, the day dawned that would bring the whole reason for the trip to fruition: we were going to have Gooey Louie cake.  I did not stop for coffee and I did not stop for breakfast; we were going for cake.  I found the bakery and I walked inside and was told to come back after 11 when the fresh cakes are made.  Oh…OK…we’ll just walk around a bit.  

We walked up and down Chippewa Street, me anxiously looking at my watch every few steps to time our return just right.  At 11:04 I walked back into the store and was presented with two cakes, still warm from the oven.  I chatted with the owner of this St. Louis institution for a while then went back to the car, carefully placing the cakes in the trunk.

We had one more stop to make before we left.  Most important was coffee and where else to get some than in Donut Drive-In where I had some mighty fine goods the last time we passed through.  I asked the staff to surprise me with the favourites and I was not disappointed with the selection.  I was chatting away when I was handed my change and realized that got back more than I gave.  I know my math is bad but that’s not how it usually works and I joked that I wasn’t the only one in need of coffee.  Damn my honesty.

We were going to be spending the night in Indianapolis but had one slight detour to make on the way.  Anyone who has followed our adventures knows that I am a big fan of Alton Brown’s road trip series “Feasting on Asphalt” and have tried to visit as many places featured in the series as possible.  We were going to be passing by one that had eluded me: until now.

We rolled into Evansville and I recognized the building as soon as I saw it: Hilltop Inn.  I walked inside and I looked at the menu even though I knew what I was going to order.  I actually ended up ordering two items off the menu and after confirming that the dogs were allowed on the patio out front, I went to the car and brought the dogs to sit and wait.

The first item to land on the table was Marx BBQ Pork Grenades: pork sausage wrapped in bacon and doused with BBQ sauce.  Lovely.  I was working on the grenades when the whole reason for our stop was in front of me: brain sandwich.  Yup.  I said it.  Brain sandwich.  I stared at the plate in front of me with a mixture of trepidation and confusion.  I had ordered a slider but they had mistakenly prepared the full-sized sandwich and it was massive.  Was I actually going to eat a plate-sized sandwich of deep-fried brain?  Why yes.  Yes I was.

The trick to eating the brain sandwich is to eat it fast while it’s still hot.  As it cooled, the texture was less appealing.  It’s already an interesting texture, almost spongey.  I half expected something slimy or strongly flavoured and it was not.  

I had quite the audience as I ate as well.  Some people had heard me say that I was here from Canada for the sandwich because I saw it on TV and that just blew their minds.  Next thing I know, there’s a string of people coming to talk to me, even the owner stopped by.  This was a part of town where everyone knows everyone and their whole family.  I was eating as people figured out family members and where everyone lives and convoluted back stories.  It was better than any program, almost like a soap opera.

Finally, I bailed on the sandwich.  I got most of the way done but between the donuts earlier and pork grenades, I was defeated.  The dogs were also tired of being celebrities and we climbed back in the car and made the drive to the Super 8 in Indianapolis.  

It was under renovation and the first room we were given was completely unacceptable.  Luckily the second was much better.  I brought the dogs, and the donuts and cakes, from the car and listened to them snore before I was finished brushing my teeth.  Who are we kidding?  I sampled a few pieces of the Gooey Louie cake first.  Between the barbecue and the cake, it was worth the trip.

Day 9

Today was to be our last day on the road so once the car was packed up, we went in search of coffee and we found it at Kim’s Kakery, Bakery, and Cafe.  I walked in to displays full of gorgeous little cupcakes.  How could I not grab a few?  Or a lot?  I walked out with a great coffee and a dozen mini cupcakes.  Yes I know that I had a ton of sweets but my plan was to drop them all off at the office since we’d drive by on the way home anyway and then I could pick at whatever was left when I came back to the office a few days later.

Everything was fine as we were driving along north out of Indianapolis.  I was marvelling at how similar it looked to parts around where I live, and is that snow falling?  Where did this snow come from?  Wait…where did an almost blizzard come from???  Where am I?  This is crazy.  Oh it’s gone. 

Well after that craziness, I needed some lunch so we left the highway at Warren and stopped at Ugalde’s Family Restaurant.  At the recommendation of the staff, I ordered a wet burrito and a coffee.  I took my hefty bag back to the car and dug into what can only be described as heaven.  It isn’t pretty: a burrito drowned in some kind of sauce with refried beans and rice but this…this is road food at it’s finest.

We crossed the border with none of my usual gaffes and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make an ass of myself for once. We drove back across Ontario with few breaks; at this point I just wanted to get home.  I stopped off at the office to let the dogs visit and drop off the goodies we had brought back.  My co-workers dug into them like a bunch of vultures but I knew there’d be plenty when I came in on Monday.

Get ready for the curveball: I found out the following day that because I had crossed the border, I now had to self-isolate for 14 days.  I drove a total of 5532 km over the course of nine days for cake and all I got of it was a chunk as long as my baby finger.  Well great. I guess this means we’ll have to go back sometime.

As far as a last trip with Jack, it went as well as it could have gone. He got to go on one last big adventure and for that I am grateful.

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